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Still from Whittle’s upcoming film, to debut as part of Frieze London.
Still from Whittle’s upcoming film, to debut as part of Frieze London.

Alberta Whittle Wins 2020 Frieze Artist Award

Filmmaker Alberta Whittle has been named the recipient of this year’s Frieze Artist Award. The prize is awarded annually to an international emerging artist. The Barbados-born Whittle, an interdisciplinary artist who earned her MFA from the Edinburgh College of Art and lives between Glasgow and Johannesburg, has described her work as “motivated by the desire to work collectively towards radical self-love.” Common themes in Whittle’s oeuvre include the African diaspora and the drive to decolonize Western history.

Whittle’s winning proposal is for a new moving-image work based on the writings of queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. The film interweaves gothic imagery, fears of contagion, and the moral panic that often accompanies such concerns.

According to Eva Langret, artistic director of Frieze London, Whittle’s forthcoming film “explores timely questions relating to personal healing and the cultivation of hope in hostile environments, be it the pandemic, colonialism or xenophobia.”

Whittle’s work will be shown at Frieze London 2020, which will go online on October 8, the offline iteration of the fair having been nixed owing to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. An invitation-only simulcast screening will take place at the headquarters of prize sponsor Forma; the London-based arts organization will hold additional public screenings of the work during the week of October 9–16, for which attendees must register in advance.

This is the second year in a row that a filmmaker has won the prize. Whittle’s proposal was chosen from a shortlist otherwise comprising Cibelle Cavalli Bastos, Jamie Crewe, Adham Faramawy, Arash Fayez, Onyeka Igwe, Helene Kazan, and Sadé Mica.

Jurors for this year’s prize include, besides Langret, Chris Rawcliffe (artistic director, Forma), Himali Singh Soin (artist and winner of the Frieze Artist Award 2019), Victor Wang (artistic director and chief curator, M Woods Museum, Shanghai) and Zoé Whitley (director, Chisenhale Gallery, London).

Whittle, who is also a researcher and curator, is currently a research associate at the University of Johannesburg. She was a RAW Académie Fellow at RAW Material in Dakar, Senegal, in 2018 and won the 2018–19 Margaret Tait Award.